Academic doors should open fast and allow fresh air

The annual report of any major corporate states “the objective of the organisation is to maximise shareholder value”.

Published: 21st October 2017 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st October 2017 06:07 PM   |  A+A-

The annual report of any major corporate states “the objective of the organisation is to maximise shareholder value”. Shareholder value is a perceptual net present value calculated based on the prospective growth of the firm’s future cash flow discounted at a risk rate. This way of capturing future cash flows in present time is called time value of money.

If this is too much of finance, let me stop here and move to the main part. If the estimated time value of money of shareholder’s future value is important to corporates, the estimated value of present education for the future of our knowledge economy is more important for higher educational institutions. A strong foundational knowledge asset at present forms the bedrock for a stronger economic asset for the future.
In corporate finance, negative value can be dressed up to present a positive image through consultants with a ‘gastronomical’ fee for building a glamorous corporate figurine studded with jewellery and grand finesse concealing a ‘Mallya’ heart inside.

In the academic world, negative value in academic progress cannot be cosmetically or fashionably dressed up to build an intellectual academic figurine and conceal the naked institutional and individual ignorance. A potential superpower like India cannot afford to build its knowledge economy through deceptive dolls but needs functionally intellectual figurines built through a robust and contemporary educational framework.

The Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council recently charted out a 10-point focused agenda to accelerate economic growth. Economic growth is a demand-supply problem and can search for solutions from historical models like Keynesian or Marxian or any ‘isms’. Academic growth is a ‘future-future’ problem and cannot afford to fall back on stockpiles of historic academic success.

In the world of academic, what worked in the past is not necessarily relevant for the present on which the future of a vibrant nation like India should be built and nothing can capture this quintessence better than T S Eliot’s “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice”. The million dollar question is, are we hearing the right voice?

On one extreme we have a visionary plan to build 20 world-class universities and on the other extreme the school education system is fragmented without a coherent synergy. Between the ideal and the fractured, lies the predominant and majority ecosystem that needs an overhaul. As we await the New Education Policy, there are low hanging fruits that can be allowed to ripen with a similar 10-point agenda to propel India’s educational march.

The focus areas can be—promoting human and national values, experiential learning, national school curriculum with co-operative federalism (a GST model), streamlining professional college admission (NEET model), collaborative academic research (dismantle the current ivory tower approach), resurrecting the teaching profession at all levels, rebranding vocational education, professionalising educational bureaucracy, oxygenating private participation and affordable education through tax reforms. Every agenda has a ready sapling to be planted and watered to yield a plumpy short-time harvest.

In corporate finance, it is impossible to have high short-term yields. In academic penance, quick decisions and quicker actions yield higher outcome. In corporate finance, a successful financial year is never a guarantee for eternal prosperity. In academic progress, success begets success consistently through a concatenated process of evolutionary and sensible growth ensuring that the end of one successful academic year is the beginning of another successful one.Eliot’s “we do not pass through the same door twice or return to the door through which we did not pass” will never go wrong. Let the academic doors of success open fast and allow fresh air.  

S Vaidhyasubramaniam

Dean, Planning & Development, SASTRA University

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